Marketing of Zombie Pub Crawl Lacked Brains (Updated)

In today’s episode of Obsessions I’ll Never Quite Understand — zombies.

An estimated 13,000 people took part in the sixth annual Zombie Pub Crawl Saturday along the West Bank in Minneapolis.

I can’t imagine anything worse than thousands of boozed up 20-somethings caked in makeup and corn syrup to appear dead — or undead — roaming the streets of Minneapolis. This zombie craze is beyond me. I don’t get it. Booze, I get. You know what’s delicious with booze? Not (fake) brains. Cheeseballs, for example.

All of the sudden, it’s cool to like zombies. I’m putting that one on hipsters and Zombieland, which was actually a pretty decent movie. Ultimately, it’s about shock value. It’s about being weird and different and taking stupid photos of yourself for Facebook and having the audacity to be 28 and unemployed yet the free time to design an ornate zombie costume complete with fake gaping wounds. Am I right?

Probably not.

For the first time ever, the Zombie Pub Crawl required a $10 wristband to the chagrin of local zombie enthusiasts. Organizers of the event sensed there would be unrest, so they explained the fee on their website:

“Wristbands also allow us to pay for security guards, which we’re hiring because last year a couple people got mugged and a few bars had their windows broken, and we don’t want that kind of thing happening at the ZPC. We want it to be fun and safe. It also allows us to pay some of the people who’ve been helping us, like DWITT, our poster illustrator, who until this year has been paid only in cases of beer. And Matt, our web designer, who just had a kid. The money also goes to booking bands and renting a bunch of porta-potties. A bunch of the money from wristbands will go to state in the form of sales and entertainment taxes. We’re also planning to donate a portion of proceeds to the University of Minnesota Department of Neurology’s Alzheimer Research Program (because healthy brains taste better!). And finally, after all that, we’re going to pay ourselves for the time we put into organizing this thing, which we’ve done for free five years in a row now.”

Full disclosure is a good thing, but the organizers seriously lacked tact in explaining where the money would go. (Security guards, poster illustrator, web designer, bands, porta-potties, taxes, charity, us.)

If 13,000 showed and paid $10 a head, I wonder how much of that $130,000 made it to the University of Minnesota Department of Neurology’s Alzheimer’s Research Program. It’s a great cause thematically, but I doubt a few thousand dollars goes very far with brain research.

Furthermore, if the ZPC is aligning with a charity, that should have been made more prominent in its marketing. People like myself may have then been more interested in attending, sans zombie costume.

I’m sure the ZPC will be back next year, bigger and bolder. The organizers should take it upon themselves to align with a smaller charity in need; one where a few thousand dollars will really go somewhere.

UPDATED at 1:03 p.m.

Just received comment from Taylor Carik, one of the organizers of the Minneapolis Zombie Pub Crawl:

“Hi Andrew,

My name is Taylor, and I’m one of the organizers of the Zombie Pub Crawl.  Some details of the event might give you a different impression the pub crawl, particularly from a marketing perspective. 

There’s a total of five part-time organizers for the event, and in the days leading up to the pub crawl we had a lot on our brains.  We certainly could’ve — and should’ve — done more consistent *messaging* and we’re bummed at that missed opportunity.

Four of us started the First Annual Zombie Pub Crawl with 100 people in 2004 in Northeast Minneapolis, and we’ve built up the event year after year with our own free time, effort and specialties to consistently double the number of participants. 

For our marketing approach, we made an active decision this year to only promote the event through Twitter and Facebook, and to leverage the audience our media partners at The Onion and Yelp!. 

As the attendance numbers grew, so did the editorial exposure in several news publications and the word of mouth, which we then highlighted through our digital channels.  When questions came up, we engaged people’s questions in public and did our best to respond in a personal manner, and we also did a week of contesting with some of our VIZ passes and show tickets. 

We started the event with a marketing budget of $500, which we paid to DWITT to make us a killer poster to use online.  And with that “ad spend”, we ended up having around 13,000 ‘unemployed hipsters’ (do you include marketing interns in that?) attend the event, making it unofficially the largest pub crawl in the world and larger than many well known Twin Cities events like Rock the Garden and Soundset.

From our perspective we see that as a pretty successful marketing campaign with a huge conversion rate and pretty high return that was basically unfunded and all digital. 

In terms of the charity, because of the size and complexity of the event, we’re still taking a look at before, during, and after the event expenses, so even we don’t know how much of the revenue will go to Alzheimer’s Research.  We’re thinking it might be fun to print a giant novelty check for us to deliver to the University of Minnesota and also include that in future promotional materials. 

See you at the crawl next year!”

OK, per usual, maybe I was a little too hard on the hipster set. My marketing internship makes me, eh, 66 percent employed. Points made.

Bottomline: ZPC has been a wildly successful event and I wish Carik and Co. the best. I’d be happy to reprint the final donation total and even take part in next year’s event.

But I’m not wearing a damn zombie costume.

For Better or Worse, Campaign Go Viral

Jerry Labriola, Republican candidate for Connecticut's 3rd Congressional District, went with a parody of the "Old Spice Guy" in a recent ad. Was it smart?

In the spirit of election overkill, I had planned on listing some of the most impressively bad campaign ads I’ve seen this cycle. I’m still going to do that, but in the process of searching YouTube for this year’s greatest hits, I stumbled upon Campaign Tools.

Apparently, YouTube started offering two versions of Campaign Tools (free and paid) back in June. The standard kit includes a channel, moderation and Insight analytics — standard fare for YouTube accounts. The paid kit includes promoted videos, call-to-action overlays and TV ads online, allowing candidates to deepen their engagement and strategic messaging with voters.

One of the key twists in candidates using social media — YouTube especially — is smaller campaigns (ex. county commissioner, state senate) have gained national attention. In fact, some campaign ads have hit viral status. YouTube has become the ultimate platform for political exposure.

That’s not always a good thing.

Read more.


Zuckerberg Resilient the Week Before Social Network Opens

If Jesse Eisenberg was paid $5 million to play Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, he would need 1,379 sequels to match Zuckerberg's net worth.

Just over a week from the opening of The Social Network, it seems Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are doing anything and everything to earn some positive press. Can you blame them? The movie is getting rave reviews, and those I’ve talked to who’ve seen advanced screenings say it colors Zuckerberg a world-class douche bag, whether right or wrong.

So, what’s Team Zuckerberg been up to?

  • Donating $100 million to Newark (NJ) public schools. According to the Wall Street Journal, Zuckerberg will announce “a donation of up to $100 million to the Newark schools this week, in a bold bid to improve one of the country’s worst performing public school systems.” And with grand Zuckerberg flair, the announcement will be made on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
  • Working on a Facebook phone. Maybe. After previously dismissing a report from TechCrunch regarding a possible Facebook phone, Bloomberg reported Facebook is working with INQ Mobile Ltd. on a pair of smartphones which could be carried by AT&T in the U.S. in the second half of 2011.
  • Climbing the list of Forbes’ 400 richest Americans. How do you get past being depicted by B-list actor Jesse Eisenberg? Try increasing your value $4.9 billion in just a year. Zuckerberg’s $6.9 billion puts him at No. 35 on the list of America’s 400 richest people. For perspective, Apple CEO Steve Jobs is worth just $6.1 billion. Chump change. Why does this matter? A) Should Facebook go public, investors can equate Zuckerberg’s financial success with still more growth potential and B) Zuckerberg’s now surpassing some of the greatest luminaries in our country in terms of value and influence.

Expect more educational philanthropy from Facebook, as Zuckerberg has long been a proponent for increasing salaries for public school teachers. His timing — with the donation and the announcement on Oprah — is perfect, considering Davis Guggenheim’s education documentary Waiting for “Superman” opens Oct. 1, the same day as The Social Network. (Guggenheim appeared on Oprah Monday to promote the doc alongside Bill Gates and Michelle Rhee, chancellor of the Washington D.C. public school system.)

About a year ago, I read Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires, the book upon which The Social Network is based. While reading it, I was aware the movie was being developed, but I imagine you’ll get the same impression from the movie as I got from the book — a sense of incompletion. Simply, the Facebook story is still in its early chapters, and to pen a book and movie before we truly understand what Facebook means seems … I don’t know … rushed? Opportunistic? Impatient?

You don’t net $6.9 billion without pissing someone off along the way. And more importantly, I don’t think Facebook users care about Zuckerberg’s dealings. Facebook has woven itself into our lives in such a way that we’re no longer concerned with how it came to be, but more importantly, that it exists.

Who can name the inventor of the Internet? (Not Al Gore.) E-mail? Wireless Internet? Online bill pay? Facebook has become a tool, a utility, something we’ve come to need. Ever talk to a friend who’s decided to quit Facebook? They don’t miss the poking and the walls and the photo albums. They miss the communication. They miss the feeling of being connected. It’s the same feeling you’d have if you up and removed your mailbox, gave up on the postal service.

I digress.

Anyone plan on seeing The Social Network? Do you believe a movie that negatively depicts Mark Zuckerberg will affect the way you interact with Facebook?

Rappers Give Blueprint for Better Blogging

Every few weeks, I write a blog post for Idea Peepshow, the official blog of Fast Horse Inc., the consumer marketing agency where I’m currently an intern. Today, I wrote about the commonalities between blogging and rapping and how Drake’s career provides the model for aspiring bloggers:

As an intern at Fast Horse, I spend a lot of time researching and compiling lists of blogs so we can make pitches on behalf of our clients. When doing so, I’m most concerned with a blog’s content, the frequency of its updates and what it’s doing to create a buzz. Bloggers who are most conscious of these three areas continually put forth the best product, and that’s where we want our clients to be seen.

I’m an unabashed fan of rap music, but I also read about 20-25 blogs per day. That’s no coincidence, because rappers and bloggers have a lot in common – chiefly, a perceived narcissism, but also the desire to innovate, the struggle for mainstream relevance and tons of competition. Rap music and blogging, as media, have endured through years of doubt and dismissal, but remain viable, both commercially and creatively.

If a blogger is looking for inspiration, they shouldn’t look to an Arianna Huffington or a Matt Drudge, but to someone like Drake, the 23-year-old rapper from Canada and arguably the brightest pop star of 2010. (That’s him above.) Drake’s young career is based on a series of brilliant calculations that could provide a blueprint to aspiring bloggers and seasoned hacks alike.

Show swagger. So many blogs seem apologetic over their very existence. Too often, I see taglines like “A few musings and random thoughts from a suburban housewife.” That inferior, bashful tone does nothing but undermine a blogger’s authority. (Even before Drake released his first album, he rapped, “Last name: Ever/ First name: Greatest.”) Focus less on what inspired a blog’s existence and focus more on convincing your audience you belong on their bookmark bar.

Stay fresh. In fairness to your audience, you have to stick to a posting schedule that’s both regular and realistic. You can’t drop a full-length album every day, but maybe a single here or mixtape there is manageable. Consider guest appearances, too. If there’s a blogger you follow who might benefit from being exposed to your audience, offer the opportunity to post as a guest. Create a clear expectation of how frequently your readers can expect new material.

Come correct. It’s easy to get caught up in templates and promotion, but the most important part of any blog is the content. Make sure social media, widgets, and plug-ins all take a backseat to sitting down and writing something worth reading. Think of your content as rapping a cappella – can it stand alone? What happens when you turn off the lights and music? Would your audience still read?

The Marketing of Mormons

My name is Andrew, and I am not a Mormon.

I am, however, an appreciator of quality marketing, and the goods being put forth by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are second to none. You must’ve seen some of these ads from before. If you watched it with a group, someone said something. If you were alone, you tuned in. At the very least, these ads are drawing attention, and since getting one to convert to a new religion is a tough sell, I’m sure the Mormons are satisfied with the buzz.

Timing is everything, and those crafty Mormons keep catching me when I least expect them. I’ve heard their radio spots after a Lil’ Wayne song on the local hip-hop station. I’ve seen their commercials during the seventh inning of a Minnesota Twins game. The Mormons have shown ninja-like abilities to catch people off guard. They same can’t be said for their previous marketing campaign.

Timing is also curious when you consider Proposition 8 and the recent decision by a federal judge to allow continuation of same-sex marriages in California starting Wednesday. The Mormons played an integral role in passing Proposition 8 in 2008, and their efforts were the focus of a recent documentary called 8: The Mormon Proposition:


I have no doubt the Mormons employ a group of advisors whose sole purpose — no pun intended — is to improve the public image of Mormons. If that’s the case, they’re doing one hell of a job. (Still no intention.) This campaign, at the very least, normalizes a religion long seen as something on the fringe, extreme, different. Sure, they may have stolen from Microsoft’s commercials (“I’m ____ and I’m a PC”), but these spots have drawn attention and stirred dialogue.

What more can you ask for?

Foursquare: For What?

Why join Foursquare? Well, badges. And the rarely lucrative mayorship.

I used the past week to experiment with Foursquare, the location-based social network that’s caught fire this summer. Last fall, Pete Cashmore, CEO of Mashable, predicted Foursquare would be this year’s Twitter. Its two million users fall short of Facebook’s 500 million, but Foursquare has taken the early lead in location-based service mixed with commerce.

Think of Foursquare as a real-life game. For those who aren’t users, one receives points by “checking in” whenever they’re at a place of business. The service also allows you to see who else is at or has been at a certain place; to share tips about a place; and, most importantly, users compete to become mayor by checking in at a place more than anyone else.

In last week’s Adweek, Brian Morrissey reported Foursquare has struggled to keep up with the influx of business opportunities:

“Adweek spoke with several agencies that report frustrating experiences with Foursquare. Some have found it both hard to contact and unwilling to come up with marketing ideas. One agency representing a major package-goods client said the company put the onus on the brand and agency to find the best way to use the service.

‘They’re not responsive and extremely hard to work with,’ said a digital agency exec who asked not to be named. ‘It’s hard to bring campaigns to life. Nobody knows how to create a badge or ask [Foursquare how] to enable behavior. It’s black magic.’ In general, he said, ‘it’s pretty much unworkable.'”

Here’s the flaw with Foursquare: Right now, it’s sort of this inconsequential game among friends to see who can accumulate the most points. So, considering the cost of going place to place, it’s a really expensive version of FarmVille. For it to remain a viable social network, their needs to be more user rewards. As Dave McClure so eloquently stated on his blog:

‘They’re not responsive and extremely hard to work with,’ said a digital agency exec who asked not to be named. ‘It’s hard to bring campaigns to life. Nobody knows how to create a badge or ask [Foursquare how] to enable behavior. It’s black magic.’ In general, he said, ‘it’s pretty much unworkable.’ HELLO, MAINSTREAM CONSUMER MARKET!”

In summary: Few businesses offer rewards for becoming mayor and their can be only one mayor at a time. The cost to become mayor — visit after visit to one place — isn’t worth the free drink or free T-shirt. Foursquare isn’t doing enough to reward those who discover and visit new places as the site intends. A badge won’t cut it. That’s where the $20 million investment and (hopefully) additional staffing need to focus.

When Bad Owners Happen to Good Brands

I’ve spent the past few weeks subsisting mainly on energy bars, which is fine. I enjoy the guilt-free experience of eating what are, essentially, candy bars.

I started dabbling in Clif Bars about a month ago. Perhaps you’ve seen them. They come in delicious flavors like mint chocolate, crunchy peanut butter and oatmeal raisin walnut, each weighing in at around five grams of fat and 240 calories. They look like bear dung, but they stick to your stomach and knockout hunger like Muhammad Ali did Sonny Liston.

While I’m happy to make a meal of a Clif Bar, I take umbrage to Gary, the owner and founder of Clif Bar & Company, who has taken it upon himself to get his Jack London on every chance he gets. On the back of each wrapper, Gary attempts to relate one of his outdoor adventures to the principles of his company. His intentions are good, but his execution leaves his brainchild looking pretentious and holier than thou.

Here’s what Gary wrote for the back of this oatmeal raisin walnut I’m gnawing on:

“While trekking in Nepal, I met up with an expedition about to climb Dhaligiri, one of the world’s highest peaks. I figured that with more than 200 porters the expedition must have been traveling with at least 20,000 pounds of stuff. Expeditionary climbing takes an enormous amount of energy, equipment, and people, to put just a handful of individuals on top of a mountain. My friends and I prefer to climb alpine style; we move quickly, carry light packs, and leave no waste behind. Each campsite is a beautiful destination in itself; not simply a means to an end. I don’t believe in reaching the top at any cost — in climbing or in business. Clif Bar’s journey resembles alpline climbing. We try to travel light and are committed to keeping our company, products, people, community, and the earth healthy.”

So, basically, Gary is a mountain ninja and you should eat his energy bar because it intends to keep the earth healthy.

Wait, what?

This is where owners, founders and CEOs so often go wrong. Rather than put faith in their product, they, themselves, try to be the brand. The Donald Trumps, Richard Bransons and Mark Cubans of this world — one-man brands — are few and far between. Their personas are so finely calculated and executed, we put faith in everything they touch. Gary, on the other hand, pens some shitty prose which only comes off as condescending when you consider the $1.69 you paid for his Clif Bar paid for his trek through Nepal.

Gary’s anecdote does nothing to improve his product, which I will continue to eat begrudgingly. My girlfriend’s mom says, “Well, why don’t you just not read the wrapper?” Good point, but it’s the company’s fault when their are parts of the experience a consumer must avoid to enjoy the product, even if it’s something so small as reading about Gary’s hang-gliding adventure in the Pyrenees.